Concert: Sound Symposium, July 11, 2016
By Garry Wasyliw
Kay Etchegary: Songs from Lebanon
Kay is originally from Lebanon, having emigrated to Canada many years ago. In Lebanon, she learned to sing the folk songs of that country in her first language of Arabic. At the concert, Kay introduced these songs as being old songs that do not change, like the folk songs of Newfoundland. They reflect familiar themes such as romance, a plea for people who have left Lebanon to return for a visit, as well as a boy insisting he will stay on the dock until his girlfriend returns from a sea trip. Musically, these songs display a sense of the pitches from Arabic music and include many soaring ornamentation melodies. I also noticed that they are not based on short repetitions but rather weave out long lines of melody which left me with the impression that I was listening to poetry set to music. It was interesting to listen to songs in a language I didn’t understand which allowed me to concentrate on the music as pure sound itself. I appreciated hearing Kay’s voice solo and restrained as it left room to focus on the beautiful inflections of the music as well as the sounds of the Arabic language. Kay is a modest performer and left me with the feeling of a friend coming over to sing some folk songs from her past.
Turkwaz is a group of four performers, brought together through their shared study and performance of a large area of music traditions. They play a combination of original folk song renditions as well as musical interpretations by the group. We heard songs from Greece, Bulgaria, Syria, Turkey, Bosnia, and Egypt. All of these musicians are versatile on a number of instruments from these areas and are also very skilled vocal performers within the many styles and languages. While I do not speak these languages, it was apparent that each song was sung in that of its source and with the appropriate change in vocal inflections and pitches to reflect the specific musical style. Each was introduced by the specific country with a description of the theme of the lyrics. While there may be some connecting elements between these musical styles, there is actually a wide variety of musical details between them and Turkwaz have a superb ability to create the many specific musical flavors and language inflections required for each. Of note was the very powerful harmonic blend of acapella voices in the Bulgarian women’s song. The Greek wedding song was propelled along by energetic drumming and instruments. Turkwaz have traced some of these songs to different regions and performed a blend of the same Greek and Turkish piece. The final song of the set was a medley in which the audience created a drone to go with an Albanian wedding party. This was a very spirited performance with very precise singing, and presented a kaleidoscope of sounds and cultural styles from many regions of the Mediterranean and Middle East. Turkwaz projected a sense of fun with their music and the audience was very engaged with their show.